What IIM Ahmedabad, the host of the last of TechSparks' ten-city crawl witnessed, wasn’t a mere mindshare; it saw the birth of a mission. While it is indisputable that the blood running in an Amdavadi’s veins is as — or perhaps even more — enterprising as your average Valley mad genius, what the ecosystem lacks is synergy. But the buzzing city was in luck — as establishing synergies to collaborate and conquer happens to be the very reason YourStory was put on the planet — and TSparks Ahmedabad was convened to bring that goal to fruition.
Almost as if part of a unanimous march, the 30-odd student and to-be-entrepreneurs vowed to not let apprehensions douse the fire; the 30-odd startup founders resolved to foster foolproof products, brands, experiences, and journeys to contribute to the calibre of the ecosystem; the few VCs not only surveyed the room to identify prospects, but also seemed resolute to place their bets; and last but not the least, the speakers at the forum, products of Ahmedabad who had made their work relevant even on a national scale, shared their most prized experiences and greatest learnings. Here are the highlights of the afternoon:
Taral Shah, Founder and CEO, OneHop.
The man who is trying to change the way people shop for clothes online by technologically enabling and aggregating your neighbourhood boutiques for you says, "If you aren't in the top 10 most favourite apps on your users’ phones, you will be deleted." Explaining the chilling disclaimer, he states that the apps most indispensable to one's users are the usual wildly popular social media apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, followed by the Zomatos, news apps, and cab aggregators. All apps that don't serve an all-encompassing purpose like the ones above are vulnerable to being trashed at the slightest provocation. To break into this list for an e-commerce app is almost an impossibility; hence, Taral's hack is simple. Don't focus on the problem, focus on the solution. If your app doesn't stick, don't work on making your app better and better; rather, focus on casting your net through the web.
Prabhakar Jayakumar of DigitalOcean, separating the ‘hot’ from the ‘not’
Explaining the typical business life cycle, Prabhakar chooses to administer a reality check to a room full of aspirants at the very first stage of their entrepreneurial journeys — the ideation stage. "If your big idea doesn't fit into the two buckets of 'needs' and 'wants' of the consumer at large, you are better off reconsidering," says Prabhakar. Either your idea endeavours to fulfil a ‘need’ essential and conducive to easing a consumer’s daily routine, or it attempts to satiate a "want", something that would be nice to have, enjoyable to use, easy to adopt, and which has multiple and habitual use-cases. If it fits into neither category, it may not take off. Sure, it may showcase initial traction, but not much more.
Yash Shah of Gridle breaks down the customer acquisition conundrum for a SaaS platform
A potential SaaS customer may showcase five traits, namely, "No need, no money, no desire, no trust, no hurry," according to Gridle Founder and CEO, Yash Shah. Any customer exhibiting the latter three isn't a lost cause, and acquiring him/her is an algorithm of many of Yash's ingenious hacks. "80 percent of the SaaS sales happen between the fifth and twelfth follow-up call, so follow-up is mandatory," he opines. Appeasement tactics to stay on their radar, like following them on social media, Retweeting the updates from their company's handles etc go a surprisingly long way in closing a deal, chuckles the former Tech30 champion.
“If your days are running out, you are being a good salesman,” he says.
Zendesk’s Vidhur Bhagat keeps it simple: If a customer is unhappy, he goes viral
Some very realistic customer trends, as anticipated by Vidhur of Zendesk, are that the battle in 2016 is going to be fought not by great products, but by great customer service, and that this is the year of "conversational commerce." The phrase ‘customer is king’ has never been more relevant, and in times like these, a promoter's economy is being fostered, as word-of-mouth in the form of evangelism, referrals, and recommendations is becoming the most legitimate PR a brand can garner. 74 percent of people give most weightage to an endorsement from a fellow consumer, says a Google survey.
Viral Shah, Founder and CEO of Antrapreneur, The Business Incubator, on bringing a paradigm shift in Gujarat's startup ecosystem
Letting the audience in on some revelatory findings of a study they recently conducted, he explains that 90 percent of his respondent startup entrepreneurs feel that Gujarat lacks sufficient, and sufficiently enthusiastic, angel investors.
"Business is in our DNA, and funding new businesses is just as alien to it." Everyone who intends to invest only has one criterion — the rate of returns and how swiftly the tables will turn. Trying to change that one event at a time, Viral had organised one of Gujarat's very first "speed dating with VCs" event for startup owners, wherein 16 entrepreneurs pitched to over 138 HNIs.
Vivek Kejriwal, CEO and Founder, Oneway.cab: It is a myth that everything needs to be tech-driven
"It is a myth that everything needs to be tech-driven to be relevant today," says Vivek, revealing that the first six months of his unique intercity taxi aggregator service was conducted with pen and paper. "Your processes and concept need to be rock-solid. Technology can only enable further; it cannot become the offering itself, especially in a line of business like ours, where existing traditional players have taken care of the problem statement bloody well, and only need to be organised."
"Timing," adds Vivek, "is everything." Even as talks for introducing dynamic pricing for intercity cab bookings are doing the rounds, Vivek opines that there is a time for everything, and that one must first factor in various aspects like the malleability of the consumer mindset, their agility, and the existing market structure. In an industry where unorganised players are still accessible and can steal back business, trying to control pricing will backfire.
A big shoutout to all our sponsors - Zendesk, Axis Bank, Sequoia Capital India Advisors , Digital Ocean, Microsoft, AWS, Akamai, Target, Verisign, Kerala Startup Mission, Brand Launch Centre, Tork and Blink.